Disrespect Your Elders

By Gless Fuentebella

Art by Mia Maric

It’s entertaining to believe that some great epiphanies can happen when you’re entirely intoxicated.

It was at a house gathering that I found myself psychoanalysing the lives of the people around me. There I was, whisky in hand, mind buzzing in euphoria, internally applauding the success of my peers. Everyone had worked so hard to be where they were in that moment, and I was pleased to categorise myself with them.

Suddenly, the buzz disappeared. I felt the shift in the air as I spoke to a close friend of mine. She told me about how she had failed her studies one too many times, how her plans for the future were practically non-existent, and all that she felt burdened with. The atmosphere was incredibly heavy. I glanced around the room at the peers I was so proud of, at the people I thought had accomplished such great things, and they all wore the same expression: regret.

The truth is bitter, but here it is: where they were was not where they wanted to be. Why? Because they didn’t chase their own aspirations. Instead, they had reluctantly walked behind the dreams that their parents had for them.

We have our elders to thank for the positive life lessons they have taught us. Without them, we would have turned out entirely different. I probably wouldn’t be literate enough to write this post if my parents didn’t push me to study hard. Despite that, one truth that they could never admit to us is that they are never always right, especially when it comes to your life decisions.

Yes, your life decisions. That’s crucial to remember. In a society filled with criticism and competition, we need to stay true to who we are and where our passions lie or else we’ll be stuck in a black hole of self-hate. If everyone lived their lives according to the expectations of their elders, our world would have never progressed as much as it has! In fact, we would have nowhere near as much opportunities to express our creativity through our careers.

I roll my eyes at the grey cloud that hovers above the idea of pursuing a career in the arts, a cloud that rains when I chat to the odd Asian auntie or uncle. Gathered from my own experience, older generations have disapproved creative careers because they are “impractical” and lead to dead ends, but they don’t realise the endless opportunities we have today.

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"The truth is bitter, but here it is: where they were was not where they wanted to be"

Creative careers aren’t easy for sure; they’re incredibly competitive, emotionally exhausting, and financially unstable, but all of that doesn’t matter when you’re passionate about what you do. Your strength and ability to achieve your personal statute of greatness comes from your willpower and motivation, so doing something you don’t want to do will lead to that dreaded dead end they worry about.

When it comes to our paths in life, we have to make the ultimate decisions for ourselves. What our elders want for us should be considered as suggestions and guidance, rather than instructions. It’s okay to disrespect their disapprovals, because if it’s what you’re passionate about, you will succeed. Never let the pressure of wanting to please your parents stop you from achieving your goals. It’s harder said than done, but eventually they will be happy because they will see that you are happy.

That’s an important thought to keep in mind: even though our elders may have invasive, and maybe even insulting, opinions on our life choices, they have good intentions at heart. They want to watch us become successful and live life as best as we can. They have been through many hardships and failures just so we can live as privileged as we are, and we should always be grateful for that.

Respect your elders because they were once in the same shoes, but remember that it’s just as important to respect yourself too.